BAY VILLAGE, Ohio — There’s a program operating in Bay Village that has reached beyond the city’s borders to help area residents who are affected by cancer. As the Village Project nears its 10-year anniversary, it’s a good time to look back on how this program got its start and what it’s doing today.
Thanks to Diane Frye of the Village Project, who did the heavy lifting by providing much of the background information.
A decade ago, Bay resident Barb Harrell learned about “Nourishing Connections,” a small, spiral-bound cookbook published by Ceres Community Project of Sebastopol, Calif. Their concept of using local teenage cooks to prepare nutritious meals for people in the community who were experiencing health challenges intrigued her, so she traveled to California to learn more.
Taking what she learned, Harrell came home and launched the Village Project on Sept. 24, 2010. Similar to its California counterpart, the mission was for the community to come together to provide nourishing meals and extended care and service to area residents who are experiencing cancer.
The community embraced the idea, and the fledgling Village Food Project — as it was known then — began. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves to share their time and resources with the new initiative.
The first nutritious meals were prepared on Feb. 1, 2011, in the basement kitchen of Bay Presbyterian Church, then delivered to four Bay Village families who were struggling with cancer.
Adult volunteer cooks supervised teenagers, who took responsibility for most of the meal preparation and packaging. Through the experience, the teens learned about nutrition, meal planning, cooking and the satisfaction and joy of serving others.
The initiative was well-received and more than doubled its client base within a year. It was supported by more than 100 volunteers.
As the program grew, Avon Lake joined in 2012. By mid-year, further growth meant they needed a larger base of operations. In September 2013, Village Project volunteers renovated and moved into a 3,500-square-foot facility in Bay that offered an activity area, office space, storage and a commercial kitchen. That meant the program could expand again, adding Rocky River to its client base.
The program continued to expand as it met a growing need, adding Westlake in 2015 and Avon in 2017.
Since its inception, the Village Project’s client base has grown 600 percent, which meant more space was needed again.
In early 2018, Project Pillar, a funding initiative, was launched and, by September, the expanded facility incorporated part of the building that formerly housed Thomas & Thomas Photography Studio, a business launched more than 30 years ago in Bay and now owned by lifelong Bay Village friends and Bay High School graduates Sarah Edelman and Amy Laing Nahra.
When they outgrew their space in the city, they constructed a new, state-of-the-art photo studio in nearby Avon Lake.
By acquiring the additional former photo studio space, the Village Project was able to double the number of clients it served, have additional storage space for bulk purchases — thereby reducing operating costs — and providing room for volunteer training, as well as client and community engagement. The program could host cooking classes and corporate dinners, as well.
Over the years, people asked if they could purchase some of the foods Village Project shared with it clients. The expanded space allowed it to open Project Shoppe, a retail shop that offers two healthy entrees weekly for carryout purchase.
There also is a selection of locally sourced gift items, including things like specialty vinegars, granola, herbed salts and dog treats made in the Village Project kitchen from fresh, organic ingredients.
As is first decade ends, Village Project has provided more than 35,000 meals to more than 350 families in Avon, Avon Lake, Bay Village, Rocky River and Westlake.
In addition to the nutritious meals, clients also receive extended support, such as yard cleanup, errand running, holiday baskets, flower bouquets and more — all produced by a multi-generational volunteer team.
Village Project shared some reflections on that first decade from the perspective of volunteers and clients:
“I’m so happy to be able to help make our clients’ lives a little bit better. As I sometimes say to my clients, ‘I’m the Delivery Angel you see every week, but there are so many wonderful, caring Village Project volunteers who make sure our meals are prepared, packaged and ready for delivery,’” said Pat O’Hara.
“As a Delivery Angel for the past year and a half, I wish I could convey to you and the team how many times a client has told me how much these meals mean to them and their families, especially as they are undergoing treatment. Sometimes it’s uplifting. Sometimes it’s heartbreaking. It is indeed an honor and a privilege to be associated with and represent the Village Project,” O’Hara added.
“Cancer is emotionally and physically exhausting. It was a huge help and an instant pick-me-up, too,” wrote client Jennifer Breehl. “I was just so touched and grateful for the kindness, generosity and support of the people in my community, most of them strangers to me at the time. I’m so lucky and blessed to have the Village Project in our community. I wish every community had one.”
Added garden leader Sherri Reilly: “The kids learn so much about outdoors and nature and don’t even realize how much they’re helping other people. To see the kids’ faces light up when they realize they’re meeting someone who they helped is just amazing.
“It is such a wonderful organization that teaches adults, as well as children, to serve other people while they’re nourishing their own life. The word nourish is so perfect. We really are nourishing the community.”
Client Lisa Baumgartner shared this: “Even though I’m sick, I want to make sure my family comes first. Especially when I know I can’t cook or make my family feel good. There’s someone to feed them who cares. And what they eat is healthy. It takes a lot of stress off me.”
Another client, Nancy Brown, had this to say: “Going through my cancer journey, I’ve never felt like I was alone. There’s always contact and genuine care and concern. And, for those who believe, prayers that go above and beyond.
“It’s amazing how this organization was so small and now has blossomed and is helping more and more people and families. I would like to see more people embrace volunteering, donating and being active in Village Project. It’s about so much more than cancer or having cancer. It really is about community.”
Harrell said she extends her thanks to all those who have been involved with the Village Project over the years, and notes that a $10 donation in support of the program’s operations would make a difference.
Also, to help celebrate the anniversary, there is a 10 percent discount on all Project Shoppe purchases during September.
Visit ourvillageproject.com or call 440-348-9401 for more information on the Village Project.
Grant received: Rocky River Public Library got some good news recently when the library learned that its applications for two grants providing funding for coronavirus-related expenses were approved.
RRPL received a $3,000 Library Services and Technology Act CARES Act mini-grant and a $25,000 CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund for Public Libraries grant. Both grants are funded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an independent federal agency.
Combined, the grants will cover a number of unexpected COVID-19-related expenses, including the ongoing purchase of personal protective equipment, sanitizing methods for library spaces and materials that are approved by the Centers for Disease Control, adding more capacity for virtual programming and improving the interior air quality with an enhanced filtration system on existing equipment.
For more information on the grants, call 440-895-3750 or email email@example.com.
Porter programs: Westlake Porter Public Library has a number of diverse virtual and at-home programming opportunities available during the next week. The library is at 27333 Center Ridge Road, Westlake. Visit westlakelibrary.org for complete programming and library information.
Library patrons can register for a kit to make a wire-wrapped pendant. Those who registered can pick up the supplies at the drive-up window during library hours from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. They will need to have wire cutters and round-nosed pliers for the project.
A virtual “Got Science” program to build a parachute will be offered from 4 to 4:45 p.m. Sept. 18 on Zoom for students in grade K-4. Pre-registration is needed for the project kit and Zoom details. Once registered, the kit can be obtained from the library’s Youth Services Department.
“Medicare Ins and Outs” will be offered from 10:30 a.m. to noon via Zoom. Register to get the link for program participation and learn about Medicare coverage and options.
Children in grades 1-2 are invited to participate in a mystery STEAM bag challenge at 11 a.m. Sept. 18 on Zoom. Registration is required in advance to obtain the needed supplies and the program link.
Teens in grades 7-12 can stop by the Youth Services Department all day Sept. 21 and 28 to pick up a teen craft kit — while supplies last.
A Zoom session on hearing better while staying socially distanced will be offered at noon Sept. 21. Registration is required to obtain the program details.
Family story time live will be offered at 11 a.m. Sept. 22 and 29 and 6:30 p.m. Sept. 30 with interactive story time featuring books, rhymes, songs and movement for families with children ages 2-6. Register to receive the Zoom link information.
Cars in the park: Crocker Park is partnering with Rafih Auto Group to bring “Cars in the Park” to Crocker Park in Westlake. The car showcase will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (Sept 20). Crocker Park is at Crocker and Detroit roads in Westlake.
Featured will be more than 50 exotic and rare automobiles, including models of Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and more. There also will be activities, live music and several dining options. The exhibit is from both private collectors and owners, as well as the luxury Northeast Ohio dealerships within the Rafih Auto Group.
Cars in the Park is free and all proceeds from the registered cars will benefit the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge. Attendees will be able to view and take photos of the displayed vehicles. However, for safety and sanitization standards, no one will be allowed to get into any of the vehicles.
To prepare for adequate social distancing during the event, an RSVP is encouraged by visiting mbzno.com/cars-in-the-park.
To register a car to be part of the show, visit mbzno.com/cars-in-the-park-registration. More information on this and other events taking place at Crocker Park can be found at crockerpark.com/play. Also, follow @CrockerPark on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Information, please: Readers are invited to share information about themselves, their families and friends, organizations, church events, etc. from Bay Village, Rocky River and Westlake for the West Shore Chatter column, which I write on a freelance basis. Awards, honors, milestone birthdays or anniversaries and other items are welcome. Submit information at least 10 days before the requested publication date to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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